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Part 1: Girl.


Oct. 31st, 1997 – 5:19pm

I don’t understand why Mom is gripping the steering wheel so tight. Well, I guess it has to do with something about Dad because he’s coming tonight and she told me she can’t talk to him and not yell. She keeps pressing her lips together and making that mean look she makes when she finds all my toys hidden in my closet after she tells me to clean my room. She’s been crying a lot at night when she thinks I’m asleep too and when I ask her about it in the morning time she says why were you not asleep and that she’s not sad she just gets angry about the things that Dad does. But that doesn’t make sense because you don’t cry when you’re mad, you cry because something makes your heart hurt.  And I don’t want to tell her about the stuff we do together when I visit him even if it’s exciting because Mom bubbles over like a pot of spaghetti when it cooks for too long if I say anything that has to do with Dad. I don’t like it. 

I’m looking at her right now and it’s making my stomach feel icky. I’ve got to say something to make her happy, because we should be having fun.  But I kind of think she’s acting silly because she tells me not to pout but she’s right there and she seems like she’s pouting or something. I mash the feelings down somewhere deep, and I try to sound as cheery as I can:

    “Did Aunt Trisha tell you what Travis and Tessa were dressing as? They told me it was a secret.”

    She seems to be excited to talk about something that’s happier than what’s going on in her head:

    “Oh a secret, huh? Well I suppose you’ll just have to wait and see.” She chuckles. Her grumpy face starts going away makes my stomach feels lighter.

“Trish didn’t tell me anything. Did you tell them about your Dorothy costume?”

“I gave them a hint. I told them that I had sparkly red shoes, but they both just guessed every princess they could possibly think of. I don’t think they’ve ever seen The Wizard of Oz.”

“Whaaaat?!” Mom does her laugh that’s my favorite kind ‘cause it makes me think of a chicken. But I can see some wrinkles hiding in her forehead, and they’re not the old kind of wrinkles but the frowny kind as soon as her smile goes away. 

I forget time looking outside at the golden leaves floating off of the trees onto people’s front yards. I try to think of something else to talk about - anything to start off this night good. Dad, Mommy, and my cousins, aunt and uncle are ALL going to be there tonight! Like we used to! And we’re going trick-or-treating in the really nice neighborhood. I plan on getting to as many houses as possible and trading with my cousins Travis and Tessa for the good candy, like Butterfingers. I don’t think Travis likes Butterfingers, which is weird because he’s my age, and Tessa is in third grade because she’s two years older but she likes Butterfingers.

“How many streets are in the nice neighborhood?”

“How many streets? Oh gosh, I don’t know hon…”

She doesn’t say anything else. Instead she’s getting sad or mad again. 

“Well…I just want to know how long it’s gonna take to get through the whole neighborhood.”

Mom says really quiet in her serious voice so she thinks I can’t hear, “Not that long, I hope.”

I don’t understand why she said that. But we’re zipping by the front yards outside now super fast, and I wonder why but now I kind of want to get out of the car.

“Mom, are we late?”

“No we’re just fine.”

“Why are we going-“

“Oh SHIT.”

Mom slams on the breaks, but we’re still moving on the road and my stomach is flying into my throat. My chest gets cold but my cheeks get hot and she looks at her rearview mirror.

“What’s going on?”

“Well, I guess I’m getting pulled over!”

I want to cry because I don’t know why she’s yelling at me all while saying it like it’s a joke but it’s not funny. Then I see the blue and red lights behind us now as Mom slows down. I hear the click clack click clack of the car signal and it’s louder than it’s ever been, and we pull on the side of the road. The police car just sits there, and I don’t know what’s going on because now Mommy all of a sudden is crying really hard. Mom’s been pulled over by a police officer before, but she wasn’t this upset that time. Her eyes are all wet and her pretty makeup is smudging everywhere. She keeps trying to take deep breaths and I want her to just calm down.

“It’s okay, Mommy.”

“Well this is a really fun start to our evening, huh?” Her words feel like they’re hitting me on the inside, so I just stay quiet. I look in the mirrors again and I see the policeman step out of his car. He has no smile on his face, and his slow, stompy steps make it to our car make and now I’m scared because I don’t want Mommy to go to jail.

He gets to Mom’s window, and taps on the glass. She wipes her face off really fast, but tears keep making her cheeks shiny as she starts rolling down the window.

“Open that glove box, Lily.” I open it and give her the handful of papers inside.

The policeman is so tall so he has to lean down really far to see us, “Happy Halloween,” he says and now he’s smiling. Mom just laughs, but it’s not a good laugh. She looks through the papers and through her purse.

“Do you know how fast you were going?”

“I just- I’m sorry. I was talking to my daughter and I don’t know what I was-“

“Okay ma’am, well you should know the speed limit on this road is 35. I clocked you at 48 miles per hour. Is there a reason you’re in such a hurry?”

“No, I just- I guess I really didn’t realize that I was going that fast.”

“You know that ten miles over the speed limit would be considered reckless driving; that’s an offense that can get your license suspended.”

“I’m just trying to get my daughter over to trick-or-treat with our family, I’m not some sort of criminal.”

“Let’s relax, we’re only talking here. I’m just letting you know and doing my job.” He looks over at me and smiles and nods his head and I hold my breath.

“Look, I’m going to have to write you a ticket, but then I’ll let you folks be on your way, alright?”

“Yes,” Mom says like a meanie.  She doesn’t have to be so snooty.

The officer asks Mom for her driver’s license and some other paper that she can’t seem to find. He just stares at her while she shuffles through the papers, hands shaking. Is he going to arrest her if she can’t find it? I wait and wait and feel my heart beating fast, but finally she finds what she’s looking for an hour later and hands it to him.

    “Thank you, ma’am. Now you two sit tight and I’ll be right back.”

    Mommy is huffing her breath again because I think she’s trying to get herself to stop crying. But she’s crying even more now and keeps shaking her head, and saying things like “I’m so sorry,” and “Don’t worry, your mom’s just an idiot.” That doesn’t make me feel better, though.

    I feel like I just want to go home because now I don’t think Mom is going to be very fun tonight. She’ll be sad and won’t want to sing ‘Monster Mash’ or keep count of all the houses we’ll visit with Travis, Tessa, Dad, and everyone and I’m the only one who can make her feel better. I just want to trick-or-treat.



Part 2: Mom.


Oct. 31st, 1997 - 5:56pm

    God damn it, just pull yourself together, Margo. It was just a fucking ticket. But this sure was a downright fun way to kick things off. I am already more than finished with this night. Alright…Just keep breathing. I’m making Lily nervous. As soon as we pull into the driveway I will be done with my meltdown.

    As I turn into the neighborhood I can see the little ones and their families walking around, probably now finishing up their routes just as the light is beginning to fade. The moms and dads look so content with one another, arms full of not-so-scary-looking dinosaurs, cute princesses, witches, and pumpkins; and pushing their strollers which ever-so-safely contain their exploding bags of candy. No alarm bells upon first glance – husbands and wives chat away about something-or-other with seemingly uncomplicated grace. I wonder how many of them are lying to themselves.

    I see the dark curls from the back of little Lily’s head as she looks wistfully out of the window into the sunset.  She’s probably afraid to say anything now, but I’m not really sure what to say in this moment. I don’t know how to tell her that her mom is just a sad mess. When she’s older she’ll begin to understand and I’ll share more. It’s so incredibly hard leaving a chapter behind and seeing that there are more, better ones that lie ahead when all I have capacity to feel now is this dark cavern of unanswered questions and my sinking sense of self-worth. Fourty-four and two failed marriages: Where the hell do I go now?

    Pulling into the driveway brings little relief: Here we go, round two of what I can already tell is the best night ever. I just need to get out of this car and splash some water on my face to try and fix this tragic, smeary mess I’ve created. Maybe see if I can steal some mascara from Trish. Would hate to broadcast to the entire world that I can’t seem to get my life together. I turn the car off and suck it up.

    “Alrighty, ready to go trick-or-treating?” I ask Lil, drying off my last tear and refocusing. I should have won the Academy Award with the delivery of the line. Maybe.

    “Yep.” She gives me her fake smile and pops out of the car and scampers off to ring the front doorbell before I can even take my seatbelt off. My sister Trisha opens up the door, beaming before Lily as I grab my purse and the bag with ‘Dorothy’s’ makeup and costume, minus the shoes of course, already on her feet.

    Making my way to the door, Trish lingers in the doorway with my girl, both waiting for me. The two already gabbing away like the kindred spirits I know they are.

    Lily points her toes daintily, doing her impression of a model. “Ooooh, your ruby slippers are so glamorous, Dorothy,” Trish says with her jaunty smirk. “Can I borrow them some time?”

“They won’t fit you!”

“But they’ll fit my doggies, and they want to be glamorous too!”

Lily makes a raspberry sound with her lips then giggles.

When I make it to the door I hear the stomping of footsteps up the stairs from the basement with long, ghoulish cries of “Liiiiiiiiiiiiillllyyyyyyy…..!” The cousins appear at the doorway like a couple of whirling dervishes. They’re excitement is plastered all over their faces with gooney grins; Tessa with her thick glasses and messy, long brown hair, and Travis with Santa Claus cheeks even brighter than the blonde of his head. The three amigos laugh together and do their own little greeting.

“Hi Aunt Margo,” my niece and nephew say together in perfect unison, before the three friends begin speaking with each other as if they never left one another for a second.

    I say “Hey guys” to them before they get too engrossed. Trish brings us fully inside and Lily is right at home, kicking off her ruby slippers already. “Wait, Lil, aren’t you going to change into your costume?” I hand her the bag and she takes it, looking at it as if she could care less. It’s not like I bought the fabric, cut the pattern, sewed the whole dress (which only took about four hours), went back to the fabric store to buy the perfect white ribbon that was missing that she just couldn’t live without. God knows I love my child but it sure can be hard as hell when they act like little brat sometimes.

    “Yeeeeaah,” Lily says reluctantly, “but we’re gonna go play for a minute first.”

The three squirrels scamper downstairs, but she at least took the bag with her so whatever. I take a deep exhale and look to Trish, “Hi.”

    “Hi, sis.” She gives me a tight hug then pulls back to look at my puffy cheeks and eyes. “You look weird. What’s going on?”

    “Oh God. I got pulled over because I was worrying about seeing Jim and I zoned out for a minute and was speeding. I’m an idiot.”

    She looks at me like the good sister she is and without hesitation, “Come on up to the bathroom. We’ll freshen up and you can vent a little bit before he gets here.”

    And I do. She lets me borrow some powder and mascara, and I fluff up my hair while I unload about how I still get so angry when I’m around the man, so much so that I can hardly stand to look at him. I talk about how pompous he is and how I wonder how we were ever in love yet how much I still miss it and how he never thinks he’s wrong and how much I hate having to share my child and how I should have listened to my older two kids about how they just didn’t really care for him when they first met him. But you can’t wish that because I have Lily, and I tell her how I feel like such a victim yet so selfish and stupid, and just as we’re getting somewhere I hear three banging knocks on the closed bathroom door that scare the hell out of me. However, quickly followed by the scratches of little hands and the ghost-like “ooooOOOOOOOooooo’s” of munchkin voices that are trying to sound big and booming. They can’t keep up the gag for too long before Trish and I can hear them trying to stifle their laughter. We roll our eyes and can’t help but smile at each other once our gazes meet. Trish walks over to open the door, revealing our three goofballs now dressed as Dorothy, Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker.

    “What are you two doing in the bathroom together?” Lily jokes and snorts, her sidekicks following suit.

    “Oh nothing, we were just talking.”

    “Okay, well can you put my makeup on now?” Her pretty, ocean-blue eyes looking up at me like a puppy dog. 

    “Sure,” I smile and pet her cheek.

    Trish brings me coffee while I put lipstick and blush on Lily and fix her braids. Travis and Tessa chase each other with lightsabers, as my brother-in-law Greg comes in to join the cozy chaos.  I begin to relax and feel like myself for a moment, but I just as quickly feel sick again when the blaring doorbell rings.



Part 3: Dad.


Oct. 31st, 1997 – 6:30pm

    Thank God Greg is answering the door so I don’t have to immediately be thrown to the wolves. I always thought the guy was so quick, and definitely one of the most genuinely funny people I’ve ever met.  The last time I was here was probably around Christmas time the year before, so I decide to stand in the foyer and make small talk with him for a moment to settle in. I don’t know whether to keep my coat on, or take it off, whether we’re staying for a bit or if we’re going to being walking shortly, and I also wonder where my daughter is and how long Margo is going to make me sweat it out before anyone else has the courtesy to come say hello as I begin to feel our conversation of work and what’s new dissipate into shallow awkwardness. 

    A cute “Hi Dad” at the top of the stairs saves me. 

    “Hey sweetheart, you look great! Come here!” She skips down the steps and gives me a hug, and all of a sudden I’m wondering when she stopped calling me ‘Daddy.’ We let go and she just looks at me and now we’re all standing there in the pool of sensation that screams ‘so what do we do now?’

    “Where is everybody?” I ask to, perhaps, the air in general.

    “Oh, I think they’re all upstairs getting ready and stuff,” Greg replies casually.  Lily inserts, “You want to see Tess and Travis’s costumes?”

    “Sure,” I say and smile and squeeze the back of her neck. 

    “How about a beer to go with it?” asks Greg. 

    “Even better,” Like I said- always liked the guy.

    We walk into the living room of their home which is decorated witch kitsch, framed family photos, and the handy-work of their latest home-improvement undertaking by Greg, or art project by Trisha. They’ve never been one to get too swanky with their style, but they seem happy enough. The place looks basically the same, with the exception of some new sculptures made by Trish. Lily slips away to the bathroom where I assume everyone else is, and Greg walks to the fridge, pops a beer and hands it my way before we both take load off on the couch. I take a couple of sips and realize I still have my coat on. I unzip it but decide against taking it off completely so no one will get the impression that I’m trying to be too chummy. I understand that there’s a high percentage of in people in this house that probably think I’m the devil, for no good reason. I comment to Greg about the new things I notice in their home, this and that – he’s pleasant enough. Another sip. 

    Finally Trisha rounds the corner of the bathroom hallway, smiling comfortably. “Hi there, Jim. How are you?” Lily’s cousins follow close behind happily playing a very intense game of something with their lightsabers that I probably wouldn’t understand even if I asked about the rules. 

    “Hi Trisha, I’m fine, thanks.” Greg and I observe the kids rough-housing on the living room carpet and clearly ready to be on our way, as Trish busies herself with some dirty dishes in the sink. Where the hell is Margo? She’s being a baby about this, really.

    I love Lily dearly, but I’d like to get this show on the road so I can get her back to my place, maybe in time to watch Dateline. Patricia will probably be asleep by then.

    I see Margo wander in slowly with Lily nearby, who is in good spirits but seems timid. I don’t know what she’s telling her, but I really wish Margo would stop making her act so nervous around me. Margo stares me down with wide eyes and an empty grin. I could go without the act, honestly. “Hello, Margo,” I say with accentuated politeness. Someone’s got to do it.

    “Hello, Jim.”  She replies, forcibly calm.

    The hush of the room is palpable and I can’t help but feel like I’m intruding on everyone’s evening.

    “Well Happy Halloween, everybody,” I throw out there sarcastically. Tough crowd - not even a smirk from anyone. Still just silence.

    “Mommy, can we go yet?” asks Lily to her mother, tugging at the back pocket of her jeans.

    “Yes, dear.”

    Trisha breaks up the density of atmosphere with her upbeat tone: “Oh, but first we need to get pictures of the trick-or-treaters! They look so cute!"

“I’m not CUTE,” chimes Travis, swinging his plastic weapon with purpose. Trisha laughs, knowing how wrong he actually is as she retrieves a disposable camera from her purse on the kitchen counter. “Dorothy, go stand next to Leia and Luke. Luke and Leia, hold up your light-sabers, but don’t take out anyone’s eyeball.”

Greg sighs lazily and relaxed, “Ooookay. Guess that’s my cue to get on my shoes.”

Everyone is busy and that leaves Margo and I in the background and excruciatingly in each other’s forefront. Suppose I should bite the bullet and take the moment to check in with Miss Boss-Lady about what the plan with Lily is afterwards. I move towards her feeling like I should have brought a white flag to wave anytime I need a few words. I’m not looking to be an ass here, just need to make sure that I’m not getting screwed with our agreement.

“So did Lily bring an overnight bag?”

 “Oh no, she’s not spending the night here.” She brushes it off like it’s nothing, but not before giving me a split-second, side-eyed glance of confusion. She quickly goes back to resenting my mere presence in the room and refocuses her gaze on the group. They seem to be finishing their last couple of snapshots as I see the kids beginning to get antsy.

But is she being honest, or just being plain cute? I bite my tongue for a moment to keep from telling her that this is bullshit that she’s taking me for a ride when I thought she was really attempting to bring us all here for Lily’s sake, who I watch pose with her two playmates. Come on. Does her mother really not remember this holiday is mine now? I find it hard to believe that she would let a serious detail like that just slip her mind, being that those papers were signed maybe three and a half weeks ago. 

“Let’s goooooooooooo!” Lily rolls her eyes and breaks away from group and she starts heading for the door.

“Let’s GO! Let’s GO! Let’s GO!” Travis begins chanting and gets Lily involved too. The always-responsible Tessa looks at her younger cousins disapprovingly, but with a hint of agreement in her eyes about the loud suggestion.

Margo steps away towards the front door, exiting the conversation that never really started. “Lil, you’ve gotta put on your jacket, though!” 

She must really think she’s getting her way tonight, but to be perfectly honest, I’m not going to tolerate that because it isn’t right. But if she wants to be a little brat about the whole thing, be my guest. I can save this for later if she really wants to do this the hard way. As for now, I’m going trick-or-treating with my daughter. If everyone else is going to give me the cold shoulder, they can go to hell.



Part 4: Girl going into night.


Oct. 31st, 1997 – 7:07pm    

    I’m in front of the group because I want to go fast because Mommy won’t stop talking to Trisha and Greg and won’t stop having fun, and no one is talking to Dad who is going slow and behind us all. If we go fast we’ll get back to Travis and Tessa’s house sooner and then we can start trading candy and the grown-ups can sit and talk and talk about funny adult things and they’ll be happy.

    I’m trying to have fun but it’s hard when Tessa and Travis don’t even know that my stomach feels icky and I don’t want to tell them because they’re having a good time. We’re supposed to be all laughing together because it’s Halloween, but we can’t because Dad won’t speed up and talk to everybody.

    I’ll think about it more while I go to the house with all the good decorations on the grass. There’s a lot a kids there so we might have to wait a while, but that’s okay because maybe then the grown-ups will all have to wait together while we go up and they’ll start talking. And it doesn’t matter because I’m being the leader and they all agreed that they would follow me.

    They only gave out Smarties at that house so I try to remember what it looks like so I know to not go there next year because Smarties are the worst candy. They shouldn’t have cool decorations like that if they only give out bad candy.

    We keep walking fast and I try to almost run to get everybody to speed up and maybe they’ll think it’s funny and they’ll all be laughing together. But Mom just tells me to slow down because she doesn’t want me to get hit by a car and now she ruined my plan. So after a minute I start singing ‘Monster Mash’ because it’s a silly song and everybody will like that.

    Mom and Aunt Trish and Uncle Greg start singing along too, and pretty soon Travis and Tessa are singing too but I look behind me and I see that Dad is only kind of smiling. I slow down and let them keep singing and I skip over to Dad because if I show I’m having a good time he’ll start being nicer and happier. Once he starts laughing and stops walking with his hands in his pockets he’ll forget that he’s mad at Mommy and she’ll forget too.

    I smile and skip next to him and go the same amount of fast.

    “Is your candy pail getting heavy yet?” he says and smiles good.

    “A little bit. I can still carry it though.”

    He looks through it and pretends to start eating the good pieces and he laughs when I pull it away and say, “don’t even think about it!”

    We go to some more houses and I switch back and forth of being at the front of the group with everybody else and behind with Dad. I’m getting tired of worrying so much about how everyone’s doing because I can’t figure out why Dad won’t be with us all. I just want us to be together but it’s getting late and I want to trick-or-treat more with Travis and Tessa and be crazy with them before we have to go home.

    “Okay, just a little bit further, kids. Better hurry and knock on a few more doors!” Mommy’s in a better mood now because she’s just been talking with Trisha who’s always makes people feel better. But I’m angry now because I was walking slow for Dad and now we’re out of time and my pail isn’t even all the way full yet. I start going fast again to catch up to Tess and Trav because the best part of Halloween is almost over and I decided that I don’t want to care about Dad and Mommy right now. They promised me we were going to have a good time so there. But I feel bad because I feel like now I’m being a mean-butt.

    But I don’t feel that bad for long because now Greg told a joke to Dad and now they’re talking. Everybody has friends to walk with now so the rest of the night will be okay and I can eat some of my candy when we get back because my stomach doesn’t hurt anymore. 



Part 5: Girl and monsters.


Oct. 31st, 1997 – 9:38pm

    Travis, me, and Tessa sit on the carpet and keep sorting out our candy while the grown-ups are sitting on the couches talking. I’m not listening to them because it feels like they’re all being nice to each other so I can keep putting all of my chocolate in a pile and the sour stuff in another pile that I will let Travis have, but he better have some good trades first because when we trade Pokémon cards he only gives me the ones that nobody wants and that’s not being a good sport I don’t think.

    Once we finish sorting all of it out we ask if we can eat it and Mommy says yes but only pick five. I pick out my favorite ones and we eat them and they’re so yummy and good and I now this is my favorite part of Halloween. Even though me, Travis, and Tessa aren’t talking to each other we’re still having fun because we don’t have to talk out loud to make jokes with each other.

    But things are quiet now and I don’t hear Mom and Dad and Aunt Trisha and Uncle Greg anymore. I look over at them and they are just looking at us eating our candy. Mommy and Daddy both have the same smile on and it’s not very big, but it’s there and I think they’re okay. It’s still quiet but dad shakes the room when he says “So Margo, am I taking Lily with me or are you dropping her off at my place?”

    I’m confused because Mommy didn’t tell me I was going home with Dad tonight. I thought I was going to sleep in my bed. Dad has a big smile but everyone else is looking at him and looking very serious. Mom is supposed to say something but she doesn’t and everybody is staring at her and I’m thinking uh-oh and I’m afraid to breathe. After a minute she can tell that everybody is looking at her she says “Can I speak to you outside?”

    I don’t want to eat my candy now ‘cause I kind of feel like I want to throw up. Mom gets up and walks really fast out the front door and doesn’t even wait for Dad. He stands up and looks at us all and says, “Ooooh, looks like I’m in trouble,” but he’s smiling. I don’t get it why grown-ups smile when it’s not for a good reason because it makes them look weird and scary especially when Dad does it and I don’t like it.

    They’re both gone now and Tessa and Travis don’t seem to know that my parents are acting angry now because they’re still eating their candy and they start talking about something that I don’t hear because all I can think about now is what just happened because I thought we were having a good time. I know that Mom and Dad aren’t in love with each other any more but you can still be friends even if you don’t want to kiss someone.  I look at Aunt Trisha and she makes me feel better because she smiles at me really big and tells me “It’s okay. They’re just going to talk for a minute and they’ll sort it out. You don’t need to worry about it.”

    But I am worried because they’ve been outside for a while now and I don’t know what they’re talking about.  But I know that I don’t want to go over to Dad’s because it’s not as fun over there and I don’t like Patricia. They keep staying outside and it starts to feel really long, so I think that they must be saying sorry to each other and Mommy is telling Dad that I want to go with her. Saying sorry is hard and it takes a while sometimes. I start thinking that Aunt Trisha is right and I’m feeling a little better now because pretty soon they’ll come in and we can go.

    I hear a weird sound outside that I think might be an animal because it sounds kind of loud but then I know it’s not an animal because I hear two of the sounds. One is high and the other low but it’s still loud and then I hear and bang that scares me and it’s the front door and Mommy is coming up the stairs and screaming.

    “Just LEAVE!!”

    “Margo, DON’T go up there!”

    “You can just FUCK OFF!!”

    I see Mommy and she’s crying again and she snatches our bags really fast and comes straight up to me.

    “Lil, come with me, we’re going home.” She’s crying while she says it and I don’t want to stand up but I do it anyway because I don’t know what to do and then I hear Dad coming up the stairs too.

    “You NEED to come outside, because you’re being a DAMN LUNATIC!!”

    “No YOU need to get the hell out of this house because you don’t have ANY FAMILY HERE!”

    “GOD DAMN IT, MARGO! You KNOW what the agreement is and I’m not leaving until you follow through with it!”

    “I DIDN’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT TONIGHT AND NOW YOU’RE MAKING ME LOOK LIKE A PSYCHO, because YOU won’t talk to me anymore about our CHILD without a fucking LAWYER THERE WITH YOU!!”

    “HEY! You two either need to cool it or take it back outside. NOT in here.”

    I love Aunt Trisha because she can say it and not look afraid. I hope that Mom and Dad go back outside because I don’t like them like this and I need the yelling to stop.

    “Fine, we’re going.” Mom grabs my arm and says come on but she’s kind of hurting me but I don’t say anything because I don’t know what’s happening and she takes me out of the house and we start going to the car.

    I don’t know when I started crying but I look behind me and I see the front door open and Dad slams it shut and he comes running after us down the driveway. 

    “Margo! STOP!”

    He catches up to us and he grabs my other arm. Both of my parents are holding me and all I can hear and feel is them screaming at each other all at the same time and so loud that I feel rumbling in my chest and so I look up at the stars and I wish I could zoom away up there and disappear. 

    They both stop squeezing my arm so tight so I pull them back to my body and back up to the grass and I look at them and now they’re not my Mom and Dad, they’re two dragons or monsters or something and I want them to come back but I can’t tell them what I want because I’ve never cried this hard. I think for a second if I cry even harder they’ll realize how scary they’re being and they’ll stop. So I do but they just get louder too and now I’m wondering if I’m going to be stuck here forever. I know I have to find my brave part and say something but I can’t. They keep going and going and they’re never going to stop and they’re saying all these bad words in front of me and I just need them to please stop please stop please stop – 

    “PLEASE STOP IT!!!!” They can’t hear me because they’re too loud, so I cover my ears and sit down on the lawn and all I can do is cry and I start praying because I hope God will hear and send an angel to me.

    “- and you fucking act like I’M THE ONE who can’t get his SHIT TOGETHER, when you can’t remember something that YOU AGREED TO-“

    “OH FUCK YOU-“
    “Yeah, yeah, just keep saying ‘fuck you’ in front of our daughter, bitch. MOTHER OF THE YEAR RIGHT HERE, EVERYONE!”

    “You ASSHOLE, don’t act like you never do anything wrong-“


    The front door slams and I look up and Aunt Trish is running over to me and she kind of looks like an angel because it’s dark outside and their light over their front door looks like it’s on top of her head. Now she’s holding me and my face is hot and my head is hurting from water and snot and I don’t even care if I’m getting any on her shirt because I’m so happy she’s there. I hold on to her tighter than I’ve ever hugged her and I never want to leave her.

    “She’s not going home with EITHER ONE OF YOU, tonight,” she yells at them. Even though she’s being loud it’s not the scary kind of being loud and I feel like it’s okay and it’s actually starting to help me feel better.

    “You two are completely out of control, so she is staying here.”

    I feel like everything is better because I don’t hear my parents say anything, but I don’t look up because I want to stay feeling safe and now I hate my Mom and Dad for fighting.

    It’s quiet for the first time except all I can hear is a dog barking far away. But the quiet doesn’t last long because pretty soon I hear Mom, Dad, and Trisha 

talking mad at each other but at least it’s not as horrible as it was before. I keep my head buried in Aunt Trisha and I’m not really listening to what they’re saying because I’m trying to make myself fall asleep in her arms so they have to agree to let me stay there.

    But after a while Aunt Trish slowly pulls me off of her and looks at me. She wipes my face with her sleeve and then she looks at my mom. I look at her too.

    “Fine,” she says. Mommy walks over to me and gives me a kiss on my forehead really fast and doesn’t even look at me.  “Bye, sweetie.”  Her voice is soft and shaky now and I don’t know what she’s doing but she turns away and walks over to her car and now she’s getting in and driving away. 

    I stare down the street thinking she might turn around, but she doesn’t. I look at Dad and he’s looking down at the ground with his hands on his hips. I look at Aunt Trisha, waiting for her to say that we can go inside because I want this night to be over now and I just want to live at her house forever. She kneels down in front of me, and I wonder why she looks so sad.

    “You’re going to go home with your daddy tonight, okay sweetheart?”

    But I don’t want to go with him. Everything is ruined and please just let me stay here. What happened to that idea? They’re too mad. Why can’t I just stay here with you and let Mom and Dad wait until they’re not mad anymore?

    I can’t get my mouth to work so I don’t say any of it, and before I know what’s happening I’m in Dad’s car backing out of the driveway, and Aunt Trisha is looking at me from her from door and I’m looking back and she looks frustrated. Now I’m wondering if I’m a sinner because if I were good God would have let me stay there.




Part 6: Girl gone far away.


Oct. 31st, 1997 – 10:08pm

    I try to stay concentrating on reading all the signs we pass by in my head because if I don’t I feel like I’m looking at the monsters again. Dad hasn’t said anything while we’ve been in the car and I kind of don’t want him to, but I feel like he should say something because he’s the adult. I feel like maybe he should say sorry because I was super afraid and one even cared. I keep reading the signs but I can’t take it anymore. I peak over at him for just a second to see what his face looks like. Dad usually has a serious face but this face is more serious than normal.  We get closer and closer to Dad’s house and I realize he’s not going to say anything and so I keep looking outside and staying quiet so he won’t hear or see me crying. Why does my family have to hate each other so much?

    Dad opens his garage door and we pull in. I don’t want to be here. We walk inside and I hate this house because Patricia makes it look like a museum where you can’t touch anything. Patricia is Dad’s new girlfriend that he lives with now, but I decided I don’t like her because she scolds me for not having my napkin in my lap or if I accidentally forget to close the shampoo bottle. Sometimes I don’t think she really likes me very much, and I feel like I’m always holding my breath around her.

    We walk inside and Patricia is there waiting, her eyes look big. Dad walks up to her and I walk slowly behind. I don’t feel at home here.

    She starts talking quietly to him, “Margo dropped off a bag with some of Lily’s stuff. She didn’t say anything to me. What happened?”

    Dad starts whispering for a while in her ear, and she they whisper back and forth for a minute and I can’t hear but I don’t really care anymore. Then Dad backs up, rubs his forehead and nobody says anything. He turns his head towards me but doesn’t really look at me. “Well goodnight,” he says. Then he leaves to go to bed.

    I’m so mad because he fought so hard to get me to over here and now he just walks away. No hug. No kiss. Nothing. And I feel the anger bubbling up inside of me and I want to scream and I open my mouth but instead all of a sudden I can’t stop crying again. I want to be asleep at Aunt Trisha’s house and waking up and playing with Travis and Tess and for Mommy and Daddy to stop hating each other but I don’t know if they’ll ever stop. All I want is someone to hug me and tell me that it’s okay, and then, Patricia comes up to me and squeezes her arms tightly around me. Normally I wouldn’t really want her to hug me but I don’t know what else to do because I’m all alone. Mom walked away and Trish walked away and Dad walked away and all I get is Patricia. I’m crying and crying and crying in her shoulder and she’s petting my hair and rocking me and telling me things are going to be alright and it’s so nice that I kind of believe her for a second. I keep crying for a long time until I don’t feel like crying anymore because now I don’t feeling anything. I can’t feel anything anymore because now I’m just a thing Mom and Dad fight over and I don’t know where I belong and this is what our family is now.



*Note from the author: Although drawn from life experiences, this is a fictional story. The opinions expressed within this piece do not necessarily reflect the actual opinions of the author.